More than $48,000 raised for barista at center of viral Facebook post

A screenshot of a viral GoFundMe with a picture of Starbucks barista Lenin Gutierrez.
A screenshot of a viral GoFundMe post taken Friday afternoon shows that more than $48,000 has been raised on behalf of Starbucks barista Lenin Gutierrez so far.
(Lauren J. Mapp / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Starbucks employee tried to explain company’s policy to woman without a mask


Tips for a Clairemont Starbucks barista are pouring in on GoFundMe after he shared the cafe’s mask-wearing policy with a woman lacking a face covering who later tried to shame him in a Facebook post Monday.

The original post went viral with more than 133,000 comments and 49,000 shares before it was taken down Friday, and a GoFundMe campaign started on the barista’s behalf has raised more $48,000 in “tips” for him, and it’s steadily increasing.

In the customer’s post, Amber Lynn Gilles said barista Lenin Gutierrez refused to serve her when she entered without a face covering. She posted a photo she took of him in the store along with the following message:

“Meet Lenen from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.”

Gilles didn’t respond to an interview request before publication.

In a video response posted on Facebook Wednesday, 24-year-old barista Gutierrez shared his side of the story and thanked everyone who has donated to the GoFundMe campaign. He said he had been trying to explain the store’s mask policy and offer a way to still serve her just as Gilles reacted to him by cursing, calling other customers “sheep” and leaving.

“I was going to show her the paper showing that we’ve been requiring face masks but we can still help, but before I could say anything she flipped me off and she said ‘No, I don’t need one,’ ” Gutierrez said. “She started cursing up a storm, she started calling people sheep and she left, and within a few minutes she came back and she asked for my name.”

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, face masks or coverings are now required when in public spaces throughout the state, especially when indoors or within 6 feet of people outside someone’s household. There is an exemption for children under 2 and those who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing one.

The requirement was announced June 18 as part of the continued effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. Early scientific evidence shows that face coverings help to reduce disease transmission.

The United States has hit single-day records several days this week for new coronavirus cases.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company is adhering to COVID-19 guidelines from both the Centers for Disease Control and local governments at their stores. In line with that guidance, facial coverings are required by most customers but accomodations can be made for those with health conditions that prevent them from wearing them.

“We want everyone to feel welcome in our stores,” they said. “We respectfully request customers follow social distancing and safety protocols recommended by public health officials, including wearing a facial covering when visiting our stores. More information on what customers can expect in our stores can be found on our At a Glance page.”

Policy information is available online at

In an exclusive interview with NBC 7 San Diego, Gilles said she’s received “thousands” of death threats since the post went live. Gilles also said she is an anti-vaxxer and believes masks are ineffective. Several of her Facebook photos show her attending anti-vaccination protests.

At this time, Gutierrez is not speaking to the media, but has authorized Matt Cowan — who started the GoFundMe campaign — to speak on his behalf.

Cowan lives in Orange County and started the campaign after he and several of his friends decided they wanted to tip Gutierrez for his service to the public health effort. The original goal was to reach $1,000, and Cowan has been amazed by the overwhelming response in support of Gutierrez.

“Based on the success of the GoFundMe, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people felt that same sentiment and just wanted to give a few dollars and put it in a ‘tip jar,’ ” Cowan said. “I never in a thousand years would have thought that this would go as far as it has.”

He hopes this incident will decrease cases of internet bullying while also increasing adherence to the state’s mask-wearing public health order.

In his Facebook video, Gutierrez said he’s been working at Starbucks but dreams of working as a dancer and dance instructor. He was teaching dance to kids before the state’s stay-at-home order was put in place in mid-March and said he’ll use this money to help out toward the goal of teaching again.

“All I really want to be able to do is to be able to show dance to others and show how much I love it, how much it affected me,” he said. “If I can show that to somebody else, that would be amazing to change their life like it changed mine.”